MEPS 565:35-52 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11989

Changes in deep reef benthic community composition across a latitudinal and environmental gradient in temperate Eastern Australia

Lainey Clare James1,*, Martin Pierre Marzloff1, Neville Barrett1, Ariell Friedman2, Craig R. Johnson1

1Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), University of Tasmania, Australia IMAS/UTAS, Private Bag 129, Hobart, TAS 7000, Australia2Greybits Engineering, Sydney, NSW 2029, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Deep reef assemblages in south-eastern Australia are poorly described, and have been surveyed by only a few studies conducted over small spatial scales. Here, we characterise the composition of deep (~30-90 m depth) sessile invertebrate communities from sub-tropical (27°S) to temperate eastern Australia (43°S). We estimated the cover of 51 preselected invertebrate types from over 1700 seafloor images collected by an autonomous underwater vehicle from >105 km of transects across the study region. Seafloor images were assessed using 3 alternative schemes reflecting different resolution of benthic invertebrate groupings, including the broad-level Collaborative and Automated Tools for Analysis of Marine Imagery project (‘CATAMI’) classification recently developed as a generic scoring approach for seafloor imagery. Ordination using canonical analysis of principal coordinates indicated a clear latitudinal gradient in benthic community composition and, particularly when based on individual morphotypes, 3 distinct community types (sub-tropical, warm temperate and cool temperate). Changes in community structure mostly correlated with primary productivity and the temperature climatology, while local-scale variability in community composition was most related to depth. Along with the gradual shift in deep reef community composition across latitudes, region-specific sessile invertebrates might serve as useful indicators of change in these deep benthic communities under future changes in ocean climate in the region, which has been identified as a global hotspot for ocean warming. Our methodological approach has general applicability for large-scale surveying and monitoring of benthic communities using underwater imagery.


KEY WORDS: Deep marine reef · Autonomous underwater vehicle · AUV · Benthic invertebrate · Community composition · Climate change


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Cite this article as: James LC, Marzloff MP, Barrett N, Friedman A, Johnson CR (2017) Changes in deep reef benthic community composition across a latitudinal and environmental gradient in temperate Eastern Australia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 565:35-52. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11989

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